All the entrepreneur books tell you not to try to do everything yourself, but whenever I hire something out, the work isn’t up to my standards, and I end up redoing it all anyway. How do people do it?
The classic entrepreneur wears every hat, works all the time, and suffers from terrible burnout. At first, this happens because every dollar is precious – you do things yourself, instead of paying for them. However, it may continue happening because you are disappointed by the quality of work that others produce. It is easy to conclude that it would take less time and come out better if you just did it yourself. Hence, the old saw, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
However, doing everything yourself is not a winning strategy. It will mean that you can never take a vacation, that you will become overwhelmed, and that your business could collapse if you have a single illness or injury. Above all, if you ever want to grow your business, you are going to need to learn how to delegate.
Conduct a Test before You Commit
Even though the vast majority of organizations choose their workers and vendors based on interviews, there are decades of research that demonstrate that interviews do not accurately predict job performance (Huffcutt & Arthur, 1994; Heneman, Schwab, Fossum & Dyer, 1986; Ulrich & Trumbo, 1965). In many ways, interviews are the least effective way to predict who will do the best work, since interviewers can be distracted by the candidate’s looks, charm, and charisma, instead of focusing on skills and track record. If you want to choose better employees and contractors, create a test of skills or “practicum” that the candidate or vendor can perform in front of you (or on a tight timeframe, such as 24 hours). Learn more about how practicums work here.
Set Clear Expectations
Your employees and vendors cannot read your mind. You will be more successful if you focus on outcomes, rather than trying to micromanage how the work is done. Sit down and figure out exactly what you want, including the scope of the work, critical deadlines, and quality standards. Once you can describe a clear vision of the result you require, you are ready to assign the work.
Provide Clear Instructions
It is not enough to explain what you want clearly. You need to get the employee’s or vendor’s agreement to the expectations and outcomes in writing. That way, each of you has something to go back and refer to mid-project.
Set Regular Check-ins
Break the work into stages, and set check-ins at the end of each stage, so you can make sure that you and the person performing the work are closely aligned. If you check in at regular points in the process, you are less likely to diverge, and you have a chance to course-correct if there was a misunderstanding. Regular check-ins will also clue you in if the worker is procrastinating or has a block and is not performing any work at all, giving you a chance to exit and find someone better to perform the work.
Communication is an imperfect art, and we can all improve every day. You should expect some miscommunications. When they occur, provide direct, unemotional feedback. Return to the agreed-upon outcomes and point out solutions for how to get back on track. And, don’t forget to give positive feedback when it is earned. Everyone loves to be appreciated.
Once again, try not to become too attached to how the work is done. Just because the worker or vendor is performing the work differently from the way you would do it does not mean that their method is wrong. Be open to different approaches, and be willing to collaborate to find new and better solutions.
Delegating is a skill, and if you can develop it, you will reap tremendous benefits. At first, it will take more of your time to delegate or outsource, and you may even make a mistake by hiring the wrong person and need to start over. But, this investment and the inevitable challenges are worth it. Once you know how to work with others to perform the work for you, you will be able to grow the enterprise beyond yourself and into a thriving, sustainable business.
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